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Hi, this is Dr. Emily Parke with your next functional health minute. Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about elimination diets and the mindset around elimination diets. This has come up a few times recently via social media, and I see it live with my patients all the time.

So a lot of practitioners, including myself, will ask patients to do some form of an elimination diet for a purpose. The purpose is to see what foods you may be sensitive to. A lot of the elimination diets, they take out the most common food allergens and food sensitivities, right? So if you think about a paleo reset, a paleo autoimmune protocol, Whole30, which is very similar to paleo, or even other types. There’s many other types of food eliminations, right? You can go on a histamine elimination diet. You can go on an oxalate reducing diet. You can go on a salicylate reducing diet. You can go on …there’s many different types of diets you can go on, right?

Is this food good for me or bad for me?

So because a lot of people want to categorize things as, “Is this food good for me or bad for me?” And there’s no general answer for everyone, right? It’s like you have to find out for yourself. When we ask you to do 30 day elimination of something, at the end of the 30 days, there’s always this reintroduction phase where you get to try out some of the foods that you have eliminated from your diet to see if they’re causing you any symptoms. Because at the end of the day, we want you on the most full diet that you can be on that does not cause you symptoms. Meaning, I want you to get the most foods back in your diet that you possibly can that doesn’t cause you symptoms, that makes you feel good.

So I got recently got asked a question about peanuts, for example. Like, “I see you’re suggesting instead of peanuts, doing these other nuts like almonds, and walnuts, and etc…. I thought peanuts were good for me.” And it’s not that they’re not good for you. And that’s another thing I want to make sure doesn’t start happening, as people start kind of vilifying certain food groups and there really isn’t one diet plan that’s a 100% great for 100% of people, right?

Personalization and the Individualization

So this is where the personalization and the individualization comes in and is really handy. So in the peanut example, yes, peanuts are a very common allergy, and they are a food sensitivity trigger for a lot of people also. Peanuts also can have higher levels of aflatoxin A, which is a mold toxin that some people are sensitive to. So there’s a short list of reasons why you might want to consider taking them out of the diet, and that’s one of the reasons why it isn’t in most elimination diets. A paleo reset, paleo autoimmune protocol, peanuts are not in there, for example. And that’s one of the reasons why, but there are lots of other examples of this, right? So even if you take the differences between something like a paleo food plan and a paleo AIP, well, AIP doesn’t have eggs. Eggs are an amazing, awesome food. If you can tolerate eggs, great, but they are also a common allergen and sensitivity.

I can keep giving examples like that. Even foods like dairy, right? Everyone says, “Oh, dairy is so inflammatory.” Well, is it for you, though? You know, you want to actually find out. Organic, full-fat dairy, especially the fermented dairy products, can be a really good health food for you. You just have to find out if you can tolerate it.

So the purpose of doing a lot of the elimination diets is to find out what the best food plan is for you. And I want to watch people kind of vilifying certain food groups, and saying like, “You should never eat this it’s bad.” There are a few exceptions to that, right? Like we all know we should not be doing a lot of processed and packaged food items. We should not be doing high sugar items, fast food. Things like that are obvious, right? No one should have a lot of that in their diet because it’s not health food for anyone. And we know that it causes significant disease and chronic illness in everyone. But much beyond that, as far as grains, dairy, soy, even the peanut question, all of that and all of those foods, people can tolerate them, and a lot of people can tolerate them. You just have to find out what your magic combination is.

The “Always or Never” Attitude

Another common question I get is like, “Does everyone need to be gluten free?” And honestly, the answer is no, but if you think about it logically, if you’re a perfectly healthy person, your gut is perfectly healthy, your immune system’s perfectly healthy, you eat gluten; we do know that it causes these tiny little micro-tears in the small intestine, but if you are a healthy person with a healthy gut and healthy immune system, you’re going to repair those micro-tears, and you’re not going to get intestinal permeability or leaky gut.

But doing what I do, in functional medicine, those are the people coming through my door, right? If you’re coming to see me, it’s because you’ve got symptoms going on, and likely some immune system dysregulation and some issues in the gut and so on and so forth, so that’s why eliminating gluten is a very common recommendation. Do you need to eliminate it 100% of the time and forever? Probably not for 100% of people, but for a vast majority of people, they do feel better when they take gluten out of the diet because, like I said, it is known to kind of cause these micro-tears in the small intestine, a little bit of inflammation, and that can lead to intestinal permeability, which is the gateway to autoimmune diseases, and all kinds of other diseases as well. I just want to caution people to be careful about the “always or never” attitude when it comes to foods.

This is Dr. Emily Parke, and this is your functional health minute.

Dr. Emily Parke

Dr. Emily Parke

Dr. Emily Parke, D.O., is a certified functional medicine doctor, board-certified in anesthesiology & pediatric anesthesiology, and trained in medical acupuncture. She’s an experienced speaker in the medical and functional medicine community, and presently gives talks on a wide array of subjects.